Friday, August 30, 2013

Until next time...

The Summer 2013 Theatre Study Abroad to England and Scotland was a huge success.  Thank you to all who participated and to all who helped make this experience one that we will never forget.

Your Faculty Leaders are already making plans for the next trip!   We can't wait to return to some of our favorite spots from this year's adventure, and are looking forward to adding some exciting new destinations to the itinerary (think Moulin Rouge...)  If you're currently enrolled at FGCU or planning to be enrolled, mark your calendars for August 2015 and help us spread the word!

For more information about this opportunity, or any of the other amazing international programs hosted by Florida Gulf Coast University, contact Brent Spencer ( at the FGCU International Services Office.  Happy travels!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Winding Down-The Last Three Days (9, 10 , 11)

Friday, August 9, 2013
 The MOST Awesome Group Picture!

On Friday we had an early start. We didn't even have a class discussion in the morning! We had an all day bus tour to the Scottish Highlands, which included seeing Castles, and Loch Lamond! The Highlands area is very sparsely populated with magnificent mountain ranges that dominate the region. The highest mountain that we saw far in the distance was Ben Nevis. 


Our expert driver suggested we by pass the more tourist visited stop and make our way further into the hills.  Dunn Castle was our first stop.  You may recognize this location as where Monty Python filmed many of their movies here including Life of Brian and The Search for the Holy Grail.  It is really special when you walk up close to one of these buildings as they tower above you.  Many of the castles in the area have been destroyed or have fallen into disrepair. To be able to see what is left of this castle was fascinating. It also felt good to get out and stretch our legs, and wander in the deep green grass that was full of the morning dew. The higher the elevation, the cooler the air.  
On our way to the next castle, we had such breathtaking views. Having lived in Florida for so long, one would have never imagined the impact that seeing such beautiful mountainous areas would have on you. I think I can speak for everyone and say that it was so gorgeous! It was not too sunny and it was not too foggy to see all the beauty Scotland had to offer for us that day.Waterfalls traveled through the mountain ravine, and sheep and shaggy Highland cows grazed along the road. Did I mention that they drive on the opposite side of the road here, and that they drive really, really fast? In a full size tour bus, it is pretty wild!


Our next castle was the Inveraray Castle. It was so much bigger than the first. We got to go inside and see the amazing decor. The Argyle family recently built this Castle, and 1/2 of it is open for public viewing. 

Photo Surprisingly this castle is a home to a Duke! It was amazing to know we were walking around a Duke's home. There were was so much to see. We saw the living areas and even some of the grand clothes that they would wear.

After a busy day looking at castles, we stopped by this area where the sunlight hit just right and had one of the most magnificent views we have seen all day. It was the village of Loch Lamond. It looked like a fairy tale. 

We arrived back in Edinburgh about 6 pm, and had time to eat and fall asleep, along with filling out personal reviews of some of the many plays we had seen. It was a great break from the the hustle and bustle of London, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. No meeting in the morning meant a late night visit to a local Pub or 2 to dance and sing with the locals for those in the group who had the energy to keep going!

  Saturday, August 10, 2013
The Countdown Begins

Saturday arrived in a blink of an eye and everyone realized that we only had two more days in Edinburgh, Scotland. The previous night the group was informed that there would be no morning meeting. This of course was greeted with a smile since it meant that we would be able to sleep in a little longer than usual.
After a late night the girls from room 501 woke up early enough to enjoy the few hours that we had left in Scotland. Eusyher, Mary, and I headed to the box office in order to grab some tickets for Peter Pan. Since we were early we decided to get a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant before the show started. Itchycoo was our destination that morning.  
"Coo" means cow.
It was a nice small meal that really hit the spot. Afterward we headed to see Peter Pan (the line consisted of mostly families). The play was very simple and geared toward children, but it brought back a lot of childhood memories for us as well. Having the choice of choosing whether Peter stayed in Neverland or returned to England was a nice twist as well. Of course he stayed in Neverland since the children wanted it that way. After Peter Pan we headed back to the hostel and picked up Elizabeth and Molly. After they were ready we headed off to watch The Mayday’s: Confessions. Since we arrived right on time we did not get a chance to include our confessions, but the rest of the audience did. The actors were amazing! They read a confession and just took off with it. Their reaction time and ability to come up with something off the top of their heads was just admirable. After Confessions we had plan to head back to the hostel and do some journaling, but we were pulled into a magic/comedy show. I wasn’t too up for that idea, but the show ended up being pretty decent. Some of his tricks were simple, however, he was very good at delivering them and he also appealed to the audiences emotions. Through the show he described his childhood and how magic helped him get through the tougher periods of his life and of course the girls in the audience pitied him. After the show we grabbed a bite to eat and headed to the castle.

Edinburgh Castle
Unfortunately since it was later in the day some of the locations in the castle were closed already so we decided to leave it until the next day. Afterward we looked around at some shops and then headed to meet the group to catch Metamorphosis. 
The walk was not that long and when we got there we had a chance to get some ice cream. This one person play is a world premier adaptation of a Franz Kafka story about a young man who imagines himself as if he were turned into a bug. Performed in Mandarin with English subtitles on side screens, the production was available from the International Art Festival that was running at the same time as the Fringe. This was another opportunity for our group to experience a different cultural concept of Theater.  The play was intense and extremely eye stimulating. Many Taiwanese dignitaries us joined for this grand performance.  After the show we had a brief discussion, and then off grab a late bite to eat. Our night ended early and we headed to bed so that we could be up for our 9 A.M meeting.
Planning is an integral part of moving smoothly from one place to another. after our meeting, Susan headed to the Fringe box office to secure her tickets to Blam! Being a popular show, it was always a good idea to identify the show that you wanted to watch, and get in line early so not to miss out. Waiting in a long line is a fun pass time. Visiting with folks from all over the world while online is a great way to find out where to go and what to do!  After 20 minutes in line, the tickets were safely secured for what was supposed to be a particularly exciting show. She headed down the hill to the Waverley train station  check out the tickets for her anticipated  next day's excursion to North Berwick, a small coastal town about 30 minutes by train from Edinburgh.   
Waverly Station
After having done this she walked back up the winding hill to one of the Fringe's main venues, the Pleasance.  At Pleasance many people gather to meet and discuss the best and worst plays that they have scene. There are picnic tables for eating, and comfortable leather chairs under tents to sip a pint of Cider, and say hello to a new friend. The Cider is cold , and there are lots of yummy places to get food.  Once the show was over, she grabbed a cab across town to  meet up with the rest of the group to see the world premier of  Metamorphosis.

Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013 

The entrance to the Fringe before the crowds gather.

The last full day in brings a lot of mixed feelings. Happy to be getting ready to go home, and many feelings about never wanting to leave. Sunday’s brief meeting provided last instructions on our 3:30 am departure. Yikes! Time to get organized, and pack up for our trip home to the U. S. . Most grabbed tickets for the Edinburgh Castle. We decided to spend an hour and half there just to explore.

 It was amazing and so massive! After the castle and many photos we headed to Camara Obscura! It had four floors of illusions and fun! We ended up spending a good amount of time there just looking around and taking pictures.

 Live moving images projected onto a viewing table through a giant periscope.

After that fun adventure we grabbed a bite to eat at Scooby Doo and then headed off to do some last minute shopping. Since there was no central shopping market as in London,  it was harder to find good items for a cheap price. After shopping we headed to the hostel to just relax a bit before we headed to see Blam! Kind of like watching The Office on steroids, the characters in Blam transform, not only themselves, but the entire stage from a mild mannered office to a full blown super heroes action show. Wow! 
There is so much to do and see in this action packed period of 2 weeks, that sometimes a side trip may be necessary. Susan had the privilege of traveling by train to North Berwick, which is about 1/2 hour away. Traveling through the country side is lovely with rolling hills and farm land  with grazing sheep and cows. Nestled on the Firth of Forth it is a pleasant seaside village. The firth, opens up and heads out into the North Sea. This was the home to the Open Golf Tournament just a few weeks before. The winds were brisk, but the sun was warm. One can also go to venues there, as the Fringe has expanded out to the seashore. Not much was happening that day, but there were many tourists walking the beach visiting local pubs and shops.

The tides range up to 12- 20 feet, so there is lots of sand to walk along when the tide is out. Boats take visitors out for bird watching on an out island. The waters are quite chilly, so not many bathers, but the air is clear, and on that day, quite blue. Locals say that it gets very stormy, and the waves crash over the break water. That would be worth returning to see.

Boats sit lazily in the mud with their masts clanging in the wind as they wait for the sea to return and bring them back afloat.
 Stone vacation homes line the side walks, and smaller village cottages rest in a row, with cobblestones and flowers welcoming visitors and camera buffs alike. 

Fish and Chips are in order. Or you can order the Sunday special of Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding at the Golfer's Restaurant. But a and a pint of Carlsberg must accompany whatever you decide. After doing a bit more wondering, a local tea room is a welcome last stop for a piece of Victoria cake and fresh sponge cake filled with cream and jam.

Bright paintings line the gallery, with fresh made hand soaps and scented bags filled with lavender to take away on the way out.

 Our very last venue was a dinner show, Faulty Towers.

A Monte Python type performance within the dinner setting, it was not what we expected at all!  Dinner rolls were tossed baseball style and guests were put out on the street. It was just hilarious and brilliant!  What a fantastic way to end our trip. Thank you!
Enjoying our last hours in Edinburgh we headed to the hostel in order to pack and get ready for the next day of pure traveling. 
Team Authors:  Elizabeth Hernandez, Maria Bustamante, Susan Burhoe

Thursday, August 8, 2013

UK Theatre Trip Day 8: Are You Afraid of the Dark?

By Eusyher Mendoza and Mary Castro
Midway to the top of Arthur's Seat.
Picture of the sunrise
from midway up Arthur's seat.

The night before, Jenny had an invitation for us. To hike the hill called Arthur's seat in the early morning in order to see the sunrise from the top. I jumped at the chance until I learned in order to experience this, we would had to head out by 5 am. Even though it seemed crazy, I decided to go with Jenny and Cecille. The hike seemed easy at first but as the slope got higher, I sensed this was going to be a challenge. Jenny and Cecille were very patient and helpful as we made our way to the top. When we finally made it, I was ecstatic! I am proud to say I only tripped and fell once, because that's a huge accomplishment for a klutz like me! In finally reaching the end, we realized that the long anticipated sunrise view wasn't going to happen.The top of the hill was engulfed with clouds and it was difficult to see anything besides the hillside.

On our way to Arthur's Seat.

At the top of Arthur's Seat.

Even though our plans to see the sunrise were foiled by circumstances beyond our control, I find this morning hike as one of my most prized experiences of the whole trip. I bought countless souvenirs and took thousands of pictures, but neither actions came close to the memory of how this hike made me feel. I was challenged by the journey to the top and as I reached Arthur's Seat I was humbled and inspired by my struggle and accomplishment. If you ever get the chance to visit Edinburgh, hiking up this famous hill is a must. If you're anything like me, you can't help feeling changed by the experience.

In the midst of fog at the top of Arthur's Seat

While Elsie was busy conquering Arthur's Seat, I was busying myself with getting out of bed. Once battling the shower and finding clothes that didn't smell too funky we headed down to breakfast. During our morning meeting we were informed by Gerritt that we would have to watch a show by ourselves. I'm not going to sit here and say that this did not make me feel uncomfortable. I thought being assigned to walk Edinburgh alone the previous day was hard, but this had awkward written all over it. But despite this I was ready to once again challenge myself and watch a show by myself.

The program for "Hag."
After exploring Edinburgh with a few friends and being handed an immense number of flyers, I decided to go to a show entitled Hag. According to the girl that was handing them out, the play followed the witch Baba Yaga who is infamously known to eat children. The flyer boldly stated, “I only eat the ones who deserve to be eaten.” With this very bold statement, there weren't any questions about it this was the play that I was going to see by myself.

Upon entering the venue where the play was to be held my eyes went straight for the stage. It was dark and slightly foggy. Through the fog I could just make out skulls hanging in a semi circle a broken and decaying armchair sat in the middle. If this didn't give the creepy feeling the distorted music playing in the background definitely made the hairs on the back of my neck stand. I swallow hard and forced myself to remember that this was a play and just outside these walls bustling Edinburgh was waiting for me. I took my seat in the back, due mainly to the fact that the venue was packed and not because the skulls gave me the creeps. This is where I began to feel a bit uneasy. Everyone was in pairs or groups and I seemed to be the only one who was sitting by themselves. Trying not to seem too awkward I flipped through the program that I was given at the door. Within a few minutes what little light was in the venue dimmed and the show began.

Personally, I believe that the show was great. During the show I completely forgot that I was alone and I had no problem laughing out loud. I didn't have to worry about being judged and that in itself is a great feeling. During the day, when light is still out we worry about how we look. What our faces are doing. How other people perceive us. But while watching Hag, all of those worries went out the window. I don't know if it was because the venue was so dark or because the show was that powerful that it was able to take me to another place. But whatever it did, it made me become a little more comfortable in my own skin. Afterward, as I began making my way back to the hostel I contemplated this feeling and I realized you never really know how comfortable you are around certain people until you are forced to be without them.

For some reason that day seem to have an overall theme. Starting the day with Hag, it was only right for us to end the day with a haunted walk through the tunnels of Edinburgh. Now, I know what you're saying, “It honestly can't be that bad.” But trust me, I'm the person who sleeps with a night light at the age of 21, so it's safe to say that the haunted walk was probably one of the scariest things I have been through.

Before the City of Dead tour, Molly and Garret grab a bite
from a local sausage stand.
The haunted walk was set to begin at 10p.m., so the group decided to meet at 9:30 p.m. We walked together to the meeting place for the haunted walk. As we walked you could sense the excitement that we felt. Giggling and laughing out loud, maybe a few were hiding their fear? I know I was.

We gathered around the spot where we were suppose to meet and talked excitedly about what we did that day. Finally after about 15 minutes of waiting our tour guide called our group to attention. After laying down the law and telling us the rules of his tour we followed him to our first stop. I will admit that I was a bit iffy on the tour guide. I wasn't sure we were going to have a fun time. But as we reached our first stop what little reservations I had went away. As he warned us about the steep slope he demonstrated how to go down without falling. The key to not falling, according to our tour guide, was to get into a squat like position, stand sideways while still in this squat like position, hold both your hands up and waddle your way down. By doing this I believe the tour guide was able to show the group that he was serious about his job, but also that he was inclined to bringing fun into the walk.

As we made our way through crowded streets we finally got to the opening of the tunnels. We paused there and the tour guide reminded us about the rules again. As we entered the tunnels my heart automatically began to race. The tunnels honestly looked like they were pulled from a horror story where nothing goes right. The walls were made out of grimy stones, everything echoed, and something was dripping from the ceiling. Refusing to look in either direction except straight I grabbed onto Elsie's hand and attempted to walk at a normal pace.

Group Photo Underground Edinburgh. 
I didn't seem to be the only one who seemed to be afraid throughout the group you could hear high pitched voices of girls not wanting to be left behind. Finally after what seemed to be an eternity of walking through the creepy tunnels we settled in an even creepier chamber. This is where our tour guide decides to leave and check on the back of the group. My reaction to this was a simple high pitched, “don't leave us.” But of course he had to check on the well being of the rest of the group and make sure that no ghouls had gotten them or rather they hadn't fallen on rubble.

After seeing that everyone was accounted for our tour guide went into the history of the tunnels. According to our tour guide the tunnels use to house the poorest people in Edinburgh. They pushed there due to the fact of overcrowding. During this time many died from disease, but what really got the deaths going was when the authorities refused to go down there do to the circumstances of the tunnels. Knowing that there would be no police officers and that there were only women, children, the elderly, and the sick it gave criminals free reign to do whatever they wanted.

Hearing these stories and many more would give any normal person a heart attack. Especially since you were standing in a place where most of it happened As the explaining went on our tour guide began talking about how our brains tend to play with us as we sit in pitch black. As he said this I noticed he went around turning off the lights he had set on the floor early one by one.

Our tour guide Gerry
talking about the gruesome history of Edinburgh.

My hands began to twitch and I began to internally freak out. I have always had a fear of the dark, as I stated earlier I sleep with a nigh light. Right before he turned off the last light he asked if everyone was ok with this and if anyone had any objections to speak now. It took everything out of me not to speak up, but I knew I had to do try and get over this fear. As he turned off the light I reached out and held Elsie's hand, I wasn't ready to deal with this darkness completely on my own. After 10 seconds he turned the lights back on and we continued out of the chamber. We emerged out of the tunnel and I will admit that I felt accomplished. I didn't die, I didn't get attack by any ghosts. I decided to label this experience as a win.
Overall I believe that this day was a win for me. I found myself pushing my comfort levels more than I had ever planned on this trip. I began to realize how being secure with yourself and facing your fears, no matter how petty they may seem, can only make you into a better person.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

UK Theatre Trip Day 7: First Full Day in Edinburgh

By Eusyher Mendoza and Mary Castro
Picture of High Street
(busiest street of the Fringe Festival)
 in the morning.
Taken by Brenna.
After taking the day to travel to Edinburgh, settle into our new hostel, and get a taste of the Scottish culture, it was time for the Fringe Festival. Our seventh day of our UK theatre trip we ventured into the world of performance and theatre at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Just like we learned from the class presentation, the Fringe Festival provides all kinds of performance from cabaret to theatre, comedy to spoken word, music to dance and much more. There are literally hundreds of shows going on throughout the day at venues spread across the city of Edinburgh, that it's impossible to see everything.
Thankfully to make the day go smoothly, we were required to have a minimum of three shows lined up with times and venue locations when we met for class at 8 in the morning.

Passing of flyers on High Street was very common.
(Brenna's Picture)
This way we had some idea of what we wanted to see for the day. After our meeting, I collaborated with a few of my classmates to see some of the shows they spoke about because I was very interested by their choices. So after I went to the Fringe Shop on High Street and bought my tickets for the day, Maria and I set out to our very first show, which was some distance away. In the process of finding the venue called, "The Assembly" we ended up lost for a bit, but luckily we were able to find our venue with time to spare. To start my Fringe experience I attended the theatre show entitled Austen's Women, where one actress alone on stage went through 13 different female characters from Jane Austen's famous novels. I was completely blown away by the actress's ability to transform into each of the characters including the narrator. After that, I went to a stand up comedy that was tailored to my sense of humor entitled, First World Problems. Followed by a hopeless romantic play called, I love Ikea, and while it didn't turn out to be what I expected, I enjoyed the performance and learned a lot about my preference of theatre from this play.

Brenna's picture
of performers
on High Street.
Brenna's picture from
her Burlesque show
Just when I thought I was done for the day, Susan graciously invited one of us to join her to a show called, Smashed. All she said was the show was a juggling act and that she had bought an extra ticket. I was about to decline, but something persuaded me to join her. I am glad I did!

After finding the venue, we met up with our professors Tyler and Gerritt in line. Once inside the beautiful venue, I was prepared for juggling tricks and techniques, but what I didn't expect was the deep emotions and themes the jugglers touched on during their show. Composed of seven men and two women jugglers, they played on light themes like unrequited love to more serious topics like women discrimination and the pressures and stereotypes of being a juggler. This show by far was the most inspiring, surprising, and captivating show I watched that day. I enjoyed my first taste of the Fringe festival, and I was excited to see what other shows had in store. I especially enjoyed learning the ropes of the Fringe Festivel by learning the system of obtaining tickets and finding my way through the beautiful city of Edinburgh. Included above and below are some of the other participant's choices from the festival, as you can see it highlights the festivals versatility.

Melanie's picture before the start of the show
Peter Pan

Taken from Susan's pictures, this shows
how quick some shows filled up at the Festival

Before my day ended, there was still something I needed to accomplish that didn't involve the Fringe Festival. I still needed to complete my assignment of taking on the city of Edinburgh by myself for the minimum of half an hour. That very morning, our professor challenged us by giving us the task to discover the city on our own. After Smashed, it started to rain and get cloudy, so I decided that I needed to take that time before the weather worsened.

Sunset view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill.
Picture of Calton Hill from the Edinburgh Castle.

Before I went on my little journey around the city, I decided to put away my map and head down towards the other side of the bridge. Luckily it stopped raining after crossing North Bridge, then out of coincidence I found a steep slope trail and that lead me to the top of Calton hill. While there I found the city's most amazing view of Edinburgh as the sun was setting on the water. I took one picture of the view, when my camera died. After that, I was able to enjoy the city's beauty and people watch without the pressure to document everything. It felt amazing having the cool breeze hit me as I sat on the hill side.

I wanted to spend more time at Calton Hill, I wanted to see inside the city's observatory but it was closed. I also wanted to look around at several monuments located there, like the national monument, the Nelson monument, and St. Andrew's house. However, as the city was getting darker, I decided to head back to the hostel while there was still daylight. I was saddened by the thought that I would not be able to return to this place because it was a good distance from where we were staying. That's when I made the resolution that I one day I would come back to Edinburgh and I would take the same trail and come to the same spot I watched the sunset. It might be an optimistic's promise, but if you had seen the view I saw and felt the air I felt, you would want to get back there as soon as you could.